The California Utilities Agency has introduced new guidelines to protect consumers from unscrupulous sellers of solar energy. We explain what the guide says and how it will help California solar consumers.
As of September 30, 2019, California solar installers must provide their customers with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Consumer Sun Protection Guide. A 23-page document containing important information about solar systems.
The protection guide was implemented by decision (D) 18-09-044, a decision which obliges the energy division of the CPUC to develop an information file for solar energy customers. From there, the CPUC decided that the package should be accessible to residents of all social and economic backgrounds who wish to know more about solar energy for consumers.
The ultimate goal of the guide is to help consumers make an informed decision when it comes to installing solar energy in their homes.
Contents of the California Consumer Sunscreen Guide
Solar energy owners must now sign the first four pages of the California Consumer Sun Protection Guide if they are customers of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Edison (SCE) in Southern California, or San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG & E). Otherwise, your solar panel system cannot be connected to the power grid.
Page 1 of CPUC Consumer Protection Manual
On the first page, consumers of solar energy in residential areas are informed in which languages the guide is written: English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog. An audio version is also available on the CPUC website.
Page 2 of the CPUC Consumer Protection Manual
The second page describes common misrepresentations that you may hear from solar installers. For example, customers are notified of solar installers who claim that they no longer have electricity bills after receiving solar energy.
In fact, most electricity bills have standard rates and service charges that your solar system cannot compensate for. If you find that your solar installer does not fully explain something like this, you may not have a good reputation.
CPUC Consumer Protection Manual page 3
The third page describes your rights as a solar customer. These rights include:
Right to a copy of a solar contract and a financing agreement. Both documents must be made available to you in the language in which the seller spoke to you.
You have the right to read the entire sun protection guide for consumers before signing a contract.
Be entitled to a solar disclosure document detailing the total cost of a solar panel system; and
You are entitled to a cancellation period of 3 days after signing the contract. Different solar installers may have different cancellation policies but must give you at least 3 days to cancel.
Page 4 of CPUC Consumer Protection Manual
The fourth page of the manual contains basic (but important!) Questions that everyone should ask a solar installer before signing a contract. If you ask these questions, you can determine if the solar installer is right for you.
What is the purpose of the CA consumer protection guide?
The CPUC is designed to help you solve common problems that solar customers have faced in the past by providing solar system information directly to customers.
The CPUC found that one of the biggest problems for potential solar customers was aggressive and often misleading sales strategies of the solar installers. These strategies include:
Provide owners with incomplete information on the benefits and costs of solar energy;
Provide incorrect information on various incentives.
One of the sales tactics highlighted in the consumer protection guide included installers who pressure owners to sign a contract, sometimes on the same day, the installer met the customer. This sales tactic does not give owners enough time to read and review a contract.
To resolve this issue, the guide suggests that owners take between 48 hours and a week to review all of the information and take the time to familiarize themselves with the content.